Why Aren’t Men Told to Take Arts Subjects?

Sophia Rosenblatt agrees that women should do STEM – but what about men?

My English lit lecture, without a doubt, is the female equivalent of a sausage party (taco fest?). My anthropology tutorial and linguistics tutorial last semester each had a token guy, serving as the representative for the entire male population in the class.

I don’t mind having nearly all-female classes. As much as I hate that I feel this way, there is definitely a certain comfort level in classes that are dominated by women. No mansplaining, no extra effort to assert yourself. Perhaps it’s just the students (both guy and girls) involved, but we listen and respond to each other, as well as entertain ideas our tutor introduces as mandatory thinking.

It’s not a big secret that arts courses have become associated with women throughout time, and it’s even less of a secret that women are severely underrepresented in STEM fields. My friends back home (all STEM, every one of them), send me inspirational videos with the elementary age girls as their target audience, about why women should be in the sciences. I’ve had people tell me a woman could get a job in computer science simply by pressing a space bar (not even going to engage with that comment).

We are all familiar with the module model at St Andrews.  Exploration is possible, as long as it takes a second seat to the arts or sciences that you chose originally in the admission process. Despite the freedom Scottish universities provide in comparison to England, the reminder of boundaries that lock us into our courses always finds a way to sneak in.

I would love to take maths or sciences, as I did in high school, despite it not being a part of my major track. I would love to take a random class like astrophysics (no prerequisites, please), because accessing that part of my brain, again, would be refreshing and healthy.

No matter how much I love and appreciate the encouragement for women to enter sciences, or to enter a field that has been dominated by men for as long as it has existed, I can’t help but notice a bit of inherent hypocrisy. While women are constantly told to go into STEM, nothing like the same pressure is put on STEM men to look into arts courses. There seems to be some type of understanding that career-centred computer science students have no need for a course in the arts and humanities, disciplines that would expand their thinking, and ways of thinking, just as much as a computing course would expand mine.

Men in STEM – many of whom could benefit from the subjectivity of an arts course, the added dimension for a more holistic education – face none of the same pressures, or criticisms, that women in arts do. An anthropology course that explores cross-cultural values, while perhaps not central to a hard science, fights bias and barriers, and leads to an appreciation non-absolute areas of grey – something we all need for happiness and success in this world.

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1 thought on “Why Aren’t Men Told to Take Arts Subjects?

  1. People of all genders are forced to take an equal amount of both arts and science for 4 years, regardless of whether they enjoy/excell in those subjects, and can take a mixture of both right up until leaving school if they wish to (in the Scottish high school system at least).

    University by its nature demands specialisation (why go unless you want to dig really deeply into your favourite subject?), and the administrative arm of the uni barely manages to function in the system as it exists, in which students are separated by faculty into arts, science or divinity. I understand and agree with your points to an extent, but is there not an argument to be made that by diversifying the faculty system further we risk overloading the admin systems so much they cease to function?

    Also, there is nothing stopping any of us, should we have the inclination, from taking out a library book on poetry, or physics, or computer programming, and expanding those sections of our brains not catered for by our classes on our own time.

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